Dean Kamen, the serial inventor best known for bringing us the Segway Personal Transporter in 2001, has come up with a new electronic transport system, this time designed to move predigested food out of your stomach to help you lose weight.
As reported by The Independent, the technique is known as Aspiration Therapy, and Kamen developed it in collaboration with a team from Philadelphia, PA–based Aspire Bariatrics.
How it works is conceptually fairly simple, if somewhat revolting. It involves inserting a specially designed tube called an A-Tube into your stomach, which is then connected to a small valve, known as a Skin-Port, that is surgically implanted directly into your abdominal wall, allowing access from the outside.
According to Aspire Bariatrics' website, this minor surgical procedure is not that different than the insertion of a percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy (PEG) tube, which is often done for long-term feeding of patients who can't eat orally – only in this case, the tube works in reverse.
With the A-Tube installed, whenever you eat a meal where you think you've overindulged, you can simply attach a small, portable device called an AspireAssist to the Skin-Port, and pump away! Food and drink are sucked out of your stomach, just like a garden hose, albeit a garden hose full of a half-digested slurry of organic matter.
Patients are advised to begin the aspiration process about 20 minutes after they eat a meal, and the process only takes about 5 to 10 minutes, allowing you to remove about 30 per cent of the food you've eaten before it's been digested.
No digestion means no calories have been absorbed by your body, so you won't gain weight. In fact, it will be as if you never ate the food in the first place.
Similar results can be achieved using other options today, such as gastric bypass surgery, but Aspire says this new technique is much less invasive and therefore avoids the potentially serious complications of earlier methods.
The cynical among you might observe that there's also a practical similarity between Aspiration Therapy and a certain, much older technique, one well known to ballerinas, runway models, and Roman senators. But Aspire is quick to point out that this new technique has significant advantages over sticking one's finger down one's throat.
For one thing, patients are meant to practice Aspiration Therapy only under the supervision of their doctors, who will monitor their electrolyte and metabolite levels and administer supplements as necessary. Furthermore, vomiting causes stomach acids to enter the mouth and esophagus, which can cause long-term damage over time. The Skin-Port presents no such risks.
Moreover, Aspire says, people who habitually vomit after meals are often bulimics, while candidates for Aspiration Therapy are just obese people who want to lose weight. "There is little overlap between people with bulimia and obesity," the company says, adding that patients will be screened for bulimia and other psychological disorders to determine their eligibility for the treatment.
Aspire says patients should be able to bathe, swim, and conduct most other activities normally with the Skin-Port installed. And if you want to back out, or if you've managed to wean yourself off the therapy, the A-Tube can be removed in a 15-minute procedure under conscious sedation.
Of course, don't expect miracles. Aspiration Therapy is to be undergone in conjunction with a Lifestyle Modification Program, Aspire's website ominously notes; you'll probably need to adjust your diet, and you may even have to get off your Segway and walk every once in a while.
And, of course, the biggest caveat is that the AspireAssist isn't available yet, except "on a limited basis in Europe and select additional regions." Availability in the US may take some time, as it is only "an investigational device" so far and Aspire has yet to submit it to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. So, back to the couch for now. ®